[NOTE: Narcissism and narcissistic behavior are a primary focus of this website; all posts on that subject can be found under the heading Shame/Narcissism in the category menu to the right. If you’d rather read a more clinical discussion of narcissistic behavior, you might prefer this post on narcissistic personality disorder, or this one on the relationship between narcissism and self-esteem. If you want to learn more about the basic signs and symptoms of NPD and how to recognize them, click here. More recently, I’ve also written about aspects of normal or everyday narcissism that apply to most of us.]
Most people are narcissistic.
I’m not using that word in the clinical diagnostic way, or in the everyday sense of vain or conceited. What I mean is that most people are almost exclusively focused upon themselves, their personal interests and their own emotional needs for attention. A certain amount of preoccupation with oneself is normal and healthy; it becomes a problem when you’re not truly interested in other people or ideas and only want to talk about yourself.
Here’s a fairly common experience for me: I’m at a party or social gathering, speaking to someone I’ve just met, or an acquaintance I haven’t seen in a long while. I’m asking questions, inquiring about the person’s background or catching up since we last met. Fifteen, twenty minutes pass … we’re still talking about the other person. I get the feeling that I could be anyone; I’m just a receptacle, a mirror or an audience. I provide needed attention to the other person; he or she has no interest in getting to know the man who’s listening.